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This content is taken from the National STEM Learning Centre's online course, Introducing Assessment for Learning. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 4 seconds Creating the classroom culture, where the actual difficult ideas come to the surface so they reveal their misconceptions, is important. And it’s particularly giving opportunity for students to work in pairs, where they can use peers as a resource, or to allow them to compare with others before there’s any class discussion that really helps drive this type of pedagogy. In Inside the Black Box– and we did the initial research– we were aware of four areas that needed working on in classrooms to create this particular environment. One of them was questioning. Another was feedback. Then it was self and peer assessment. And finally, the formative use of tests and quizzes.

Skip to 0 minutes and 47 seconds Having worked on this now for well over 15 years, we now have begun to understand that classroom assessment is a combination of opportunities for acting on evidence. Sometimes, we’ll use these formatively to drive learning forward and sometimes in a more summative way to report on the previous learning. The key characteristics of formatively-driven classroom– are interactive dialogue, collaborative learning, and self-regulation with the pupils playing an active role in the learning and assessment cycle. To make these aspects work well in the classroom, many teachers have incorporated specific strategies, such as using mini white boards to quickly collect the range of answers from the class or, perhaps, traffic lights so that learners could indicate their confidence in their answers.

Skip to 1 minute and 36 seconds These provide both more evidence and a richer evidence of students’ understanding. And so this makes the next steps clearer and easier to decide on. The formative classroom is one where teachers set up opportunities to collect this evidence. So we find out what students know, partly know, and don’t know and then use this evidence to decide on those next steps.

Formatively-driven classrooms

In this video Chris discusses the importance of seeing classroom assessment as a combination of opportunities for acting on evidence of student learning and understanding. Chris stresses that if we are wanting to develop formatively-driven classrooms, then we need to consider how we can utilise opportunities within our teaching for interactive dialogue, collaborative learning, and self-regulation, with the students playing an active role in the learning and assessment cycle.

Assessment for learning is therefore less about using a range of techniques and more about an underlying philosophy related to our classroom, the approaches we use and our students’ role within it.

Throughout the course we are going to support you in developing formatively-driven classrooms, by sharing ideas and exemplifying approaches in real classrooms.


Chris outlines the principles of a formatively driven classroom. Compare these ideas to your responses to the poll.

In the comments below, share one or two examples of how you have already put assessment for learning into action in your classroom. This does not have to be a complex example, just think about how you find out about your students learning and understanding.

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This video is from the free online course:

Introducing Assessment for Learning

National STEM Learning Centre